THE general insurance market has a new player as historical York healthcare provider Benenden works on extending its offering.

The Holgate-based mutual has revealed plans to launch both home and motor insurance next year after branching into travel insurance in May, under Benenden Insurance Services.

The growth in the insurance sector was underpinned early this year when Benenden completed its first ever acquisition, taking over Edinburgh-based brokers Keegan & Pennykid.

The moves come as Benenden's chief executive Marc Bell settles into his role having been appointed in March 2013, and looks to put in place "the building blocks of Benenden's future".

Mr Bell said: "We have had to look at how are we going to grow and be a successful organisation for the next 100 years.

"The healthcare market in the UK is changing. The NHS is having to reform and the funding of the NHS is very stretched, with instances of shortages driving up private health sector. That's coupled with an ageing and growing population.

"It was important we had a simple and compelling strategy to combat that.

"The first building block was to broaden out and build on development. For many years we were offering one service, a complementary service to the NHS. But we felt that wasn't enough.

"For the last 15 months we have been diversifying into general insurance. We launched travel insurance in June and that has got off to a flying start.

"We are now looking to launch other general insurance products such as home and motor in the next year. We are aiming to build a company that people join and have access to a range of health and well being products."

Speaking about the acquisition of Keegan & Pennykid, Mr Bell added: "It gives us capability and a ready made offering in the insurance market place, which has its advantages.

"We will start to develop that business under the Keegan & Pennykid brand. They have got the systems to provide home, motor and travel insurance benefits for our members.

"At the moment most of the sales of insurance services have come from existing members. Over time as we start to develop the offering more widely I think we will bring in new customers."

Mr Bell has also overseen the process of opening up the Benenden healthcare offering to all UK residents aged 16 and over, where as previously it was only available to public sector workers.

The business, which employs 240 staff, has also recently invested £45 million in upgrading its hospital in Kent.

Mr Bell said: "We are very much an organisation with health at the heart of what we do.

"We are also trying to campaign at policy level about the state of the NHS and why they need the mutual model to help tackle the tax burden of health care.

"We are promoting a hybrid model where a mutual can help certain none acute types of treatment. It's about thinking about care in the community and keeping people out of hospitals. We can do that cost effectively. "

The entire Benenden Health group now has just under 900,000 members, and reported turnover of £90 million last year.